[Taxacom] Re; Do rogue taxonomists need rogue publishers?

Pat LaFollette pat at lafollette.com
Tue Feb 9 01:09:58 CST 2010

Dear All,

E-only taxonomic publication has been a recurring topic in this 
thread, but the most important issue concerning e-only has not been 
mentioned: It is not an archival medium that meets the requirement 
for a permanent scientific record.

So far as I have been able to discover, no form of electronic record 
is accepted as permanent by governments, business, or law.  (Apart 
from paper, only microfilm is acceptable in some cases.)  If e-only 
is not considered suitable for laws, vital records, deeds, business 
contracts, or any other record that law requires be preserved for 
more than a few (3 to 7) years, how can systematic biology find it 
acceptable for the permanent taxonomic record?

Our libraries are full of 100 year old and older taxonomic works. We 
have a reasonable and justified expectation that they will still be 
there in another 100 years.  What reasonable assurance is there that 
an e-only work "published" today will still be preserved (and 
readable) in 100 years? The track record, thus far, for long term 
preservation of important digital records (from the early years of 
the U. S. space program, for example) has been abysmal.  It would be 
reasonable for systematic biology to reconsider the issue when 
electronic records are widely accepted as appropriate and safe for 
archival purposes.  E + paper taxonomic publication, on the other 
hand, has all the advantages of electronic documents while assuring a 
permanent record.

Any publication method can be (and has been) abused.  If the 
publications of "rogue taxonomists" were ever to rise above the level 
of petty annoyance, the Commission can be petitioned to suppress the 
offending work(s) or act(s) on a case by case basis.  It is not 
reasonable to allow a small handful of individuals, however onerous, 
to influence how taxonomic works are published or who can write them.

Patrick LaFollette

At 04:52 PM 2/8/2010, Bob Mesibov wrote:
>OK, let me be clearer:
>(1) e-only taxonomic publication will be much easier than print or 
>e+print, and will allow a much greater volume of taxonomic work to 
>be produced more quickly. The second point is one of the benefits 
>which has been promoted by e-only enthusiasts as a 'widening of the 
>bottleneck' currently restricting our efforts to document the 
>world's biodiversity. The fact that junk taxonomy can appear now, 
>before e-only availability happens, isn't the point. The point is 
>that without controls on e-only, vastly *more* junk taxonomy can 
>appear, and appear faster. Will it be in proportion to the hoped-for 
>increase in non-junk taxonomy? That's a conservative position, but 
>even that's a disaster, because it's the *absolute* number of 
>taxonomic entities we specialists will have to deal with, and I for 
>one don't need that much more work.
>(2) Hawkeswood's and Makhan's attitudes are relevant because the two 
>of them are sociopathic in exactly the same way spammers, botmasters 
>and other delinquents are sociopathic. You don't produce good 
>taxonomy by thinking the taxonomic establishment is a bunch of snobs 
>and by God, you'll show them! You produce a heap of junk in which 
>disinterested, honest compilers like Stephen Thorpe and specialists 
>might possibly find something worthwhile. You clearly want to judge 
>taxonomic work on its merits. Well, that's what specialists do: 
>judge merit. And this specialist wants to stop Makhan and Hawkeswood 
>before they trade in their single-shooter for a high-powered 
>automatic with a huge magazine.
>Dr Robert Mesibov
>Honorary Research Associate
>Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and
>School of Zoology, University of Tasmania
>Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
>(03) 64371195; 61 3 64371195
>Website: http://www.qvmag.tas.gov.au/mesibov.html
>Taxacom Mailing List
>Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched with either 
>of these methods:
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Patrick I LaFollette
Research Associate in Malacology
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
pat at lafollette.com 

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